Wednesday, October 31, 2012

TCM TiVo Alert for November 1-7

November 1 – November 7


WUTHERING HEIGHTS (November 3, 8:00 pm): It's always challenging to adapt a classic book into a movie, and this 1939 film uses less than half of Emily Bronte's 34 chapters (eliminating the second generation of characters) in the book. But it's still a stunning film directed by one of the true masters, William Wyler. Laurence Olivier gives an unforgettable performance as Heathcliff, showing a wide range of emotions in a complicated role. Heathcliff is bitter, vengeful, conflicted and passionately in love. I doubt anyone else could do justice to the role. Merle Oberon as Cathy is also wonderful as are many members of the cast including David Niven, Geraldine Fitzgerald and Hugh Williams. 

JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG (November 3, 3:00 pm): Sit down and get comfortable before watching this three-hour film. A huge ensemble cast of brilliant actors - Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Richard Widmark and Maximilian Schell - and memorable small roles played by Judy Garland and Marlene Dietrich make this drama one of the most riveting films made. It also makes you question the responsibility of people who commit atrocities or do nothing to stop them. The movie is a post-World War II military tribunal in which three American judges (Tracy as the chief judge in an extraordinary role) are hearing the cases of four former German judges (Lancaster is the main ex-jurist) accused of committing war atrocities for passing death sentences on people during the Nazi regime. The film is horrifying, hard-hitting, and pulls no punches, including showing real footage of hundreds of dead bodies found by American soldiers at the end of the war. You have to decide for yourself if being German during the regime of Adolf Hitler is a war crime. 

INTERNAL AFFAIRS (November 1, 1:30 am): Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. An undercover cop (Tony Leung) has infiltrated a criminal gang. Meanwhile the gang has placed a mole (Andy Lau) in the ranks of the police force. As both bosses become aware of a spy in their midst, it becomes a race against time to discover who is what before the other side is able. Yes, it’s the plot for Martin Scorsese’s The Departed. Well, this is the film he lifted it from for his Oscar-winning tale. I’ve seen both and this is far and away the better version: No Jack Nicholson hamming up the screen for one thing. And if you’re expecting the usual non-stop action film, prepare for a change, for character is emphasized over action. In fact, The Departed is a very faithful adaptation. Watching both it seems that only the locale has changed. This is the sort of film that will resonate with you long after you’ve seen it.

THE SAINT IN NEW YORK (November 3, 12:00 pm): The Saint, a sort of mysterious Robin Hood created by famed mystery writer Leslie Charteris, has been translated into all three major mediums: film, radio, and television. This is the first of the Saint movies, and in my opinion, the best. It’s also the least known, due to the fact it’s almost never shown on television. In this outing, Louis Heyward plays Simon Templar and never since has Templar been played with such smooth rakishness as that with which Heyward plays him. It’s just plain, good, old-fashioned fun as Templar makes baboons of the bad guys and earns the love of the boss’s moll. Try it and see if you don’t agree about Heyward as Templar.

WE DISAGREE ON . . . FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (November 2, 11:45 am)

ED: B. Yeah, yeah, I know. I agree that the film hasn’t exactly aged well, but it’s still entertaining and the performances still solid. We can see the Lancaster-Kerr romance coming a mile away but that doesn’t deter our enjoyment. Pressure from the Army dictated a change for the worse in two important plot points: for one, the Borgnine-Sinatra fracas is now shown to be the result of Borgnine’s sadistic streak and not coming from Army policy, as Jones indicates in his novel. Secondly, in the novel, the cowardly Captain Holmes is promoted to major while in the film he’s given a choice of resignation or court-martial. Director Fred Zinneman could live with the first, noting that it actually helped Sinatra’s character better to die in the arms of his buddy Montgomery Clift, but the second change Zimmerman saw as reducing the film to the level of a recruiting poster. No matter, for it’s a great combination of character and action, with some soap added for extra enjoyment. And it’s always good to see Lancaster in action.

DAVID: C-. The cast is loaded with talented actors - including two of my favorites, Burt Lancaster and Montgomery Clift - and the plot seems like a can't-miss about Army soldiers in Hawaii in the weeks leading up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The biggest problem with the film is it's just too much. There are too many storylines, there are too many subplots, and there are too many characters. There are films with large ensemble casts of big stars (such as Best Bet Judgment at Nuremberg) that work. The ones that work are better focused films. This one simply doesn't work. After a while, you cut your losses and pay attention to a few of the characters and storylines. While Lancaster was a great actor, and is solid in this film, the love affair with Deborah Kerr is dull. I was extremely disappointed the first time I saw the iconic romance scene on the beach with the waves rushing over them as they kiss in the sand. My immediate thought was, "That's it?" Turns it, yeah, that's it. As Ed mentioned, it hasn't aged well at all. It's predictable, even if you don't including the Pearl Harbor attack. Also, the characters are largely stereotypes of guys you'd expect in the Army: the strong silent type (Lancaster), the cruel officer (Philip Ober), the slob bully (Ernest Borgnine), the sensitive guy with demons in his past (Clift), etc.

For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.

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